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6 August 2012 | Tennis NSW

Former Davis Cup and 1998 US Doubles Champion Australian men’s tennis player, Sandon Stolle, has returned to the sport that has given him so much by heading up Asia- Pacific Tennis Institute, Aussie Athletes Agency. The Institute, which is managed by Tennis NSW, looks to bridge the gap between junior athletes and the attractive American College system.

Growing up in a well- known tennis family has given Stolle more opportunities than most to succeed at his chosen sport.  Stolle trained at the legendary Harry Hopman Academy when he was a junior but was given no handouts because of his last name.

“Harry used to drive this golf buggy around 40 courts and if saw the top of this golf buggy come to your court you knew you were in a bit of trouble” Stolle said.

The biggest opportunity Stolle says was when he accepted a place at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas. TCU allowed him to work hard and hone his skills as a tennis player before taking that next step to committing to a life on the road as a professional tennis player. Understanding how the college system works from his own experience and knowledge places Stolle in a great position to manage the Aussie Athletes Agency.

“The difference between university in Australia and college in America is that they have that great balance between academics and athletes.”

“Kids here go to university to study whereas in the US if they are good at their sport it inspires them to play for another four years as well as earning that degree” Stolle explained.

Culturally, American colleges are bound for their love of sport and the support for their teams or individual athletes are second to none. Colleges provide athletes the flexibility to study at night and train during the day and the combination between Stolle’s contacts and extensive tennis knowledge, the agency will surely prove successful.

Retiring from the sport in 2002 has been no holiday for Stolle who worked with a number of (then) up and coming players such as Jarmila Gajdosova, Casey Dellacqua and Jessica Moore at the Australian Institute of Sport. Stolle also spent time in Beijing coaching the Chinese national women’s tennis team, which included Li Na. In 2008 he was approached to manage Tennis Australia’s National Academy Sydney alongside Wally Masur, which he worked for 2 ½ years.

After stepping away from the sport at the end of 2010 to take a break, Stolle moved into the real estate industry, which was an enormous learning experience, but was offered an opportunity that he couldn’t resist.

“Mark (Wilton- Tennis NSW General Manager Sydney Olympic Park Tennis Centre) presented the idea about the college recruitment agency and developing the Asia-Pacific Tennis Institute. He had been making some great inroads in that space but believed that there needed to be one person who had the time and knowledge to commit to the agency. “

“I had always felt that there has been a big gap between junior sport and that next step, it‘s a perfect fit. The agency is a facilitator between the athlete and the college, when it comes to recruitment I know what the colleges are looking for.”

There have been a number of success stories coming out of the college system. Former University of Tennessee graduate and 2011 SEC Athlete of the Year, Australian tennis player, J.P Smith took home the Winnetka Challenger in Illinois last month. Smith’s results on the tennis circuit have shown that the support of the college system has made him a more skilled and driven athlete.

“What I am doing with the college system is trying to educate parents and the kids that going to college in America is a pathway to gain an education through your sport.”

The Aussie Athletes Agency is a service that is provided by Tennis NSW, which aims to facilitate the process between the athlete and the American college. The agency runs information sessions at high schools, sporting institutions and conferences to educate parents and athletes about the college process. For more information about how recruitment works please head to the website www.aussieathletesagency.com